Down the Hatch

Tips for restaurateurs in search of more wining with dining

Let’s all be honest for a second. No waiter, no restaurateur wants to hear a customer say, “I’ll just have water.” What they want to hear is, “Can I see your wine list?”

And once customers choose a bottle of wine, the quest begins to get them to empty that bottle and order another. Some waiters have a knack for fueling conversation and conviviality by pouring, pouring without customers even noticing.

Recent research from Iowa State and Cornell universities aims at helping consumers consume less. But depending on your perspective, the research can help restaurants pour more cheer — or help diners detect what a clever waiter might be up to. Here are a few key findings.

The wider the glass, the more people drink.

Cornell researchers found that study participants poured 12 percent more wine when the glasses were wider. A similar study published in the British Medical Journal focused on alcohol generally and found that shorter, wider glasses led to bigger pours than did tall, slender glasses.

Another study found that people poured three quarters more liquid into short, wide glasses than those who had tall, slender glasses – but believed they had poured less.

In short, people do a really bad job of judging the amount of liquid a container can hold, and they tend to drink whatever amount is in the container in front of them. So, in with the 18-ounce bolla glasses.

Pour it high.

Iowa State and Cornell researchers found that people who make it a policy of pouring only half a glass of wine pour 18 percent less than average.

Set the bottle next to the fat man.

Iowa State and Cornell researchers found that men pour more wine than women, with average-size men pouring about 9 percent more than average-size women. The researchers also found that the fatter the man (the higher his body mass index), the more he tended to pour. Women’s size, by contrast, had nothing to do with how much they poured.

Another Cornell study suggests that men can be counted on to consume more in the presence of women. Looking at food consumption only, it found that men who dined with at least one woman ate nearly twice as much pizza as men dining with other men. I’ll leave that one to the psychologists.

Sell pairings.

Cornell researchers have found that offering food-and-wine pairings generated a 45 percent increase in the sale of targeted wines, and recommend targeting high-margin bottles for this practice to boost profits. Pairings also tend to enhance the experience of both the food and the wine, by focusing the diner’s attention more on the flavors passing through his mouth. One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was at a Lafitte’s Landing dinner, where Chef John Folse had paired each of the five courses with a different wine.

Glamorize the wine selection.

Cornell researchers found that study participants who were told the wine was from California consumed more wine — and food — than those who were told the same wine came from North Dakota. I know a former wine salesman quite well. When he’s pouring the wine and telling me in rich detail about what I should appreciate in it, it tastes far better than if I had poured it myself.

Peter Reichard is a native New Orleanian who has written about the life and times of the city for more than 20 years, including as a former newspaper editor and business journalist.



Categories: Food, The Magazine